Mitsubishi HC6500

Mitsubishi has delivered a top-notch sub-$5000 HD projector with the HC6500. It's a noticeable improvement over its predecessors and a serious contender at this hotly-contested 1080p projection price point.

CNET Rating

1080p front projection is now an affordable home theatre option and by far the best way to get a really big high definition picture. Debate has long raged whether DLP or LCD is best, but the goalposts have definitely shifted closer between these two different projection technologies. The old argument was that DLP provided better contrast and blacks, while colours and detail were LCD's forté. Mitsubishi, for one, is out to prove that its latest LCD projectors can do blacks as well as any DLP.

The keys to this projector's image quality are a new 'diamond' dynamic lens iris and use of Epson C2Fine inorganic LCD panels. Image processing is handled by a Reon-VX chipset which also incorporates HQV (Hollywood Quality Video) technology.

These are all incorporated into a fairly large chassis, which we initially thought might be quite tough to accommodate, but in reality positioning the HC6500 proves quite flexible, thanks in part to motorised 1.6x zoom focus, plus both horizontal and vertical lens shift. The HC6500's large black case is sleek and all the controls are neatly located under a lift-up flap. Supplies compare with previous Mitsubishi models; the remote control remains a goody, simply laid out with backlit buttons making use in low light possible. Mitsubishi also claims the quietest operation in its class with noise output of just 17dB (in low mode) thanks to a new fan cooling system.

It's good to discover the HC6500 has two HDMI 1.3a inputs, plus there are the usual composite, S-Video and component video inputs. There's also a single 15-pin computer input, which doubles a second component video connection. RS-232 is provided for command and control functions and there's a 12-volt trigger for motorised screen control.

The on-screen menu system is very similar to that used by a couple of previous Mitsubishi models, but this time it includes iris control functions. It's easy enough to navigate and provides three user memory settings, which is a typical number, but more wouldn't go amiss if you have multiple sources and watch at all times of the day and night. The projector comes set to factory defaults, but with a projector such as this, you need to get into the set-up nitty gritty to fine tune the best possible image.

The HC6500's specs make impressive reading with a stated contrast ratio of 15,000:1 and a maximum brightness of 1,200 lumens. Take them with a pinch of salt, as these figures, especially the brightness, depend on many things such as ambient room light, as well as colour temperature and the brightness mode settings. The proof, as always, is in the pudding.

Sure enough, the HC6500 looks very film-like straight out of the box, but we felt the image could look better after calibration, which it did. Using a Blu-ray copy of HD Essentials, it's well worth spending some time to adjust the various picture settings and modes to suit the viewing environment. Generally speaking we found the best results with the colour temperature at medium, dropping the contrast slightly, while increasing brightness by a similar amount. We left the lamp mode in Standard, plus left the Auto Iris control off. This is just the tip of the adjustment iceberg and if you're not sure what you're doing, it would pay to have a professional calibrate the projector for you.

Once we were happy with the image being projected onto a 96-inch LP Morgan screen, it was on with the viewing. As promised, blacks are significantly more impressive than before and if we were none the wiser, we could have been watching a decent DLP in action. Loaded up with a favourite black depth and shadow detail test, the excellent BD transfer of The Fifth Element, any of the deep space scenes show that the HC6500 delivers a nice solid looking image. The contrast levels are high and there's a nice visible distinction between brighter and darker areas — blacks appear just that with no hint of greyness and low level detail is well resolved. We've seen blacker, but admittedly from more expensive projectors and there's no question that the HC6500 makes the grade here, especially for an LCD.

Colours and skintones are perhaps this projector's forté. Facial close-ups such as Will Smith's in I am Legend show impressive saturation of colour and a very natural looking hue. Faithful is an apt description of how this projector presents different skintones in different movie lighting conditions. Detail retrieval is high on its 'let's impress' list also. Without any noticeable over-pixelation, the HC6500 delivers fine details as sharp as a tack, but never overly so. The pixels are not overcooked, which means the image appears nicely smooth from a distance. Colours look bold and strong with clean and tight edge definition and there's no sign of any image smearing due to that well resolved sharpness. Let's not forget the amount of light it chucks out either and even in a fairly bright room, you can still see what's going on. Of course, the darker the better, but the Mitsubishi can handle and overcome a fair amount of ambient room light. It's also one of the quietest operators we've ever come across. You have to listen really hard without any other room noise to audibly tell it's warmed up and running.

A lovely full HD projector, the HC6500 proves an excellent all-round performer for the money. Blacks impress and you'd have to spend much more to better them, plus for a natural and vivid picture quality, this Mitsubishi's one of the best performers in its class.

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